Everything in me is Protestant. Born and raised. I can count on one hand the times I have attended a Catholic church. One time was a mass in Latin at the Vatican. Quite moving.
But still, only a handful of times. Sometimes, I envy these brothers and sisters of ours. And others like them.Now, before you read any further, I know the Catholic Church has hurt some of you. I have women in Bible study who struggled to find relationship with Christ during their time as a Catholic.
However, I also know Baptists I grew up with who won’t darken the door of a church today. I know Methodists who confused good works with grace. I know Mennonites who found their upbringing too stifling so they left it all behind.
Please let me show you what I admire about the Catholics. Let’s set aside the baggage.
Something deep in our soul responds to Sabbath rituals and religious practices. The Sacraments. When I enter a Catholic church, all of my senses awaken to the tradition found there.
My eyes see the stand containing holy water found at the entrance. The statues and paintings on the wall. I see the kneeling benches.
My ears hear a holy reverence, before the service even begins. I find community in the responsive readings. I hear thousands of years of faithfulness in the collective recitation of the Rosary, the "Apostle’s Creed" or an "Our Father (I do know this one)."
I taste what communion must taste like for the faithful followers in a Catholic church. I am not allowed to partake but I recall the thousands of times I have taken part in this tradition fulfilled by Jesus.
The smells are familiar to me. A church lovingly built by human hands. Wooden pews. Cloth-padded benches. Fish on Friday during Lenten season. Maybe not in church, but down the street at the Knights of Columbus Hall.
Ritual so deep I touch it. Light streaming through stained glass windows sends down beams from Heaven. In anticipation, I reach out and run my hands through mid-air. Gentle touches to my forehead, down to my heart and left to right remind me that the Spirit of the living God lives inside me.
Every time I attend a Catholic mass, I sense a deep abiding of the Spirit.
Please don’t misunderstand. I have worshiped in small churches, mega churches, contemporary and traditional. In healthy and floundering congregations. If your heart seeks Jesus, He will show Himself to you.
But many times in my own faith walk, I have longed to claim these church rituals for my own. I know they don’t save you, but they can provide intimacy. Sacred meetings.
I give the announcements at my church. The music minister mentioned to me the other day that he would like to implement more elements of a traditional liturgy into our service. I had to go home and google liturgy.
We recite the "Apostle’s Creed" every time we have communion. We put the words up on the screens because we don’t all have it memorized. Recently, the screen got stuck right as we were in the middle of reciting. Awkward silence ensued. A few in our congregation continued. I was at a lost until the screen was fixed. Catholics learn their responses, prayers and creeds from an early age. Tradition.
Growing up, for our quarterly Lord’s Supper we passed plastic cups of grape juice and broken pieces of saltine crackers back and forth, up and down our aisles. I am not belittling this experience at all.
Jesus met me there.
Today, my church celebrates Communion intincture (a fancy term I learned from my pastor when I was 38). We form two lines and proceed to the front. We are greeted by two elders who utter a blessing as we take our bread, dip it in the grape juice and return to our seat.
A member of our church family grew up Catholic. I always watch her take communion. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that. But I do. Because every time, as she places the elements in her mouth, she does the sign of the cross.
When I am brave, I sneak in my own sign of the cross. Because I don’t want the moment to release me too soon. I also want to seal it with a sign. Covenant between me and God.
Occasionally, I just long for the wine and bread offered up by a priest of the cloth. Eucharist.
We all have our form of church aerobics. I know folks come through my church doors and aren’t sure what to do either. But when it comes to tradition, the Catholics have us beat. By thousands of years.
It all leaves me wondering. Would any of my protestant brothers and sisters mind if I smuggled in some Holy Water? First thing, we could dip our fingers in the bowl with reverence, do the sign of the cross and kneel before our Father. For me, something about it announces we take this holiness business seriously.